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NBA History of Blowouts, New Record in 2011-12?

09 Jan

On December 28th in one of the e-mails my friend Leszczur mentioned “we are going to see a lot of random NBA scores this year” to which I automatically replied “every year there are blowouts” but it immediately got me thinking about them. Will this season actually lead to more blowouts than usual?
What exactly is the usual number? What happened in the previous shortened season?
.
I’ve waited a week or so for more data and here we are…

I defined blowout as 15 or more point differential and using all scores in the NBA history from basketball-reference.com I compiled a historical perspective… note that 2012 includes only 125 games played so far.

% of NBA Games ended with 15+ point blowout

% of NBA Games ended with 15+ point blowout

Well, in this small but current sample 2011-12 season is literally off the charts in terms of number of blowouts!
But it is early so it should improve… especially when season in 1999 wasn’t extraordinary in this regard at all. So maybe we just have to patiently wait for a better part of the season…

What’s more, the biggest swings happened around the time of big changes in the NBA landscape so it seems to be a pretty good measure of overall [but relative] talent level around the league, no?

Average for all seasons since 1947 is 26,34% and in the last 20 regular seasons it was a similar 26,22%.

That was a league-wide view so let’s switch it to teams’ perspective.
Here are some single-season extremes for games with point differential of 15 or more which resulted in a win:

Team Season Won15+ Games Win% Team Season Won15+ Games
Milwaukee Bucks 1971 37 82 45,12 Cleveland Cavaliers 2011 0 82
Chicago Bulls 1996 35 82 42,68 Portland Trail Blazers 2006 0 82
Chicago Bulls 1997 34 82 41,46 New Orleans Hornets 2005 0 82
New York Knicks 1970 33 82 40,24 Toronto Raptors 2003 0 82
Los Angeles Lakers 1972 33 82 40,24 Los Angeles Clippers 2000 0 82
Boston Celtics 1962 32 80 40,00 Vancouver Grizzlies 1999 0 50
Milwaukee Bucks 1972 32 82 39,02 Vancouver Grizzlies 1996 0 82
Washington Capitols 1947 23 60 38,33 Dallas Mavericks 1993 0 82
Boston Celtics 1986 31 82 37,80 Houston Rockets 1983 0 82
Chicago Bulls 1992 31 82 37,80 Baltimore Bullets 1952 0 66
Seattle SuperSonics 1994 31 82 37,80 Milwaukee Hawks 1952 0 66
Chicago Bulls 1972 30 82 36,59 Providence Steam Rollers 1948 0 48
San Antonio Spurs 2005 30 82 36,59 Pittsburgh Ironmen 1947 0 60
Philadelphia 76ers 1968 29 82 35,37 18 tied with 1 such performance in 82 games
Milwaukee Bucks 1974 29 82 35,37
Milwaukee Bucks 1986 29 82 35,37
Phoenix Suns 1989 29 82 35,37
Phoenix Suns 1990 29 82 35,37
Boston Celtics 1960 26 75 34,67
Los Angeles Lakers 1973 28 82 34,15
Boston Celtics 1980 28 82 34,15
Milwaukee Bucks 1981 28 82 34,15
Portland Trail Blazers 1991 28 82 34,15
Seattle SuperSonics 1995 28 82 34,15

It could be a very crude way to discuss some all-time great teams… if you didn’t notice there’s only one team from last decade so that’s another reason to doubt claims that NBA has a problem with competitive balance…

Here are some single-season extremes for games with point differential of 15 or more which resulted in a loss:

Team Season Lost15+ Games Lost% Team Season Lost15+ Games
Dallas Mavericks 1993 44 82 53,66 Utah Jazz 1997 0 82
Providence Steam Rollers 1948 22 48 45,83 Phoenix Suns 1983 1 82
Los Angeles Clippers 2000 35 82 42,68 Los Angeles Lakers 2009 1 82
Denver Nuggets 1998 35 82 42,68 Chicago Bulls 2011 1 82
Denver Nuggets 1950 25 62 40,32 Portland Trail Blazers 2000 1 82
Philadelphia 76ers 1973 33 82 40,24 Detroit Pistons 2004 1 82
Los Angeles Clippers 1989 33 82 40,24 Boston Celtics 1973 1 82
Cleveland Cavaliers 1971 32 82 39,02 Boston Celtics 2008 1 82
Miami Heat 1989 32 82 39,02 Portland Trail Blazers 1991 1 82
Houston Rockets 1983 31 82 37,80 Boston Celtics 1986 1 82
Los Angeles Clippers 1987 31 82 37,80 Chicago Bulls 1992 1 82
Denver Nuggets 1991 31 82 37,80 Milwaukee Bucks 1972 1 82
Golden State Warriors 2000 31 82 37,80 Los Angeles Lakers 1972 1 82
Los Angeles Clippers 2009 31 82 37,80 Chicago Bulls 1996 1 82
Atlanta Hawks 2005 30 82 36,59 Philadelphia Warriors 1947 1 60
Chicago Packers 1962 29 80 36,25 Miami Heat 1999 1 50
Chicago Bulls 1999 18 50 36,00 San Antonio Spurs 1999 1 50

Wow, Utaz Jazz in 1996-97 was the only team in history which didn’t lose a game by 15 or more points?
I didn’t know that so that’s a great bonus curiosity ;-)

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5 Comments

Posted by on January 9, 2012 in Scrutiny

 

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5 responses to “NBA History of Blowouts, New Record in 2011-12?

  1. ek

    January 10, 2012 at 18:26

    I think you’re seeing an artifact of your sample. If you limit the games to the first month of each season, I believe that the number of blowouts this year is not particularly special.

     
    • wiLQ

      January 10, 2012 at 23:53

      Good point, thanks for the comment!
      Because of it I checked blowouts in the first 15 days and first 125 games of each season [which is sample I've used here] and 2011/12 was 6th and 3rd all-time respectively… but nothing similar happened in the last 4 decades so while you are right it doesn’t look as badly as compared to full years of data, IMHO there’s a sizeable chance we will see a new record this year or at least something close to 1972.

       
  2. Leszczur

    January 11, 2012 at 14:25

    I have few comments since my nick was brought up in your post (though I was aware of it).
    By saying that we will see a lot of randomness in game results I meant result that is not really predictable and sort of out of whack. Like the Bulls loosing to Warriors in their second game, or the Heat also loosing to Warriors (hmmm…)
    Blowouts are not always a random endpoint of the game and often are result of the huge disparity between teams.
    And second – let’s compare apples to apples so “ek” is right – analysis of the first months would be more appropriate.

     
    • wiLQ

      January 15, 2012 at 13:18

      I know what you meant but I’ve tried to explain what was the inspiration for this post ;-)

       

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